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January 10, 2017
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Senate Republicans need only 50 votes to begin the process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act this week, but at least three GOP senators are publicly pushing back against the effort to repeal ObamaCare without a plan to replace it, and five GOP senators introduced an amendment Monday night to give Congress until March 3 to write legislation to repeal parts of the law. Under a budget resolution bill on which the Senate plans to vote Thursday, congressional committees have until Jan. 27 to write up the repeal plan.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who says he will unveil his own replacement proposal this week, has been leading the push to repeal and replace ObamaCare at the same time. He says that President-elect Donald Trump called him Friday evening to support Paul's strategy. "He called after seeing an interview that I had done [talking about] that we should vote on ObamaCare replacement at the same time," Paul told Politico on Monday. "I'd hate to characterize his opinion on it other than he agreed with me that we should do it that at the same time," he added. "There is momentum growing for it." He said he would vote for a standalone repeal bill if that was the only option.

Under the plans from GOP leaders, Republicans would repeal as much of ObamaCare as they can right away with a filibuster-proof budget maneuver, then come up with a replacement within three years. Any replacement measure would require at least 60 votes in the Senate, meaning eight Democrats would have to sign on. Then Trump would have to sign on. "I want to see the game plan in terms of how you actually enact replacement," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told CNN Monday. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, said "it's much more prudent to figure out where you're going to go from here, and attempt to do it all at the same time," adding, "People will see some of the flaws in just repealing only."

Trump has a love-hate relationship with CNN, so Republicans who want to influence policy may want to take a page from Rand Paul's playbook and make their case on a program Trump actually watches. Peter Weber

8:37 p.m. ET
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On Thursday morning, the White House is expected to announce its proposal to merge the Departments of Labor and Education, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

Over the last month, the White House has gone through a review of the different cabinet agencies, looking for ways to make the federal government smaller. The merger would likely need to be approved by Congress, and isn't the only change being eyed by the White House; there's also been discussion of renaming the Department of Health and Human Services to something closer to its previous moniker, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, The Journal reports.

The Education Department is already one of the smaller government agencies, with 3,900 employees, while the Labor Department has 15,000 employees. Catherine Garcia

8:00 p.m. ET
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Ivanka Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening how thrilled she is that her dad, President Trump, signed an executive order that stops the separation of children from their parents at the border.

Nowhere in her tweet did Trump note that it was a self-made crisis, as her father's administration was behind the policy. "Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border," she said. "Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families."

Before Wednesday, Ivanka Trump never publicly commented on the policy or news that infants and toddlers were in "tender age" facilities, although the president said after signing the executive order that his daughter and first lady Melania Trump both pressed him to do something about the forced separations. On Sunday, the first lady's office said she "hates to see children separated from their families," and wanted Democrats and Republicans to unite for comprehensive immigration reform. A White House official told The Washington Post that over the last few days, Melania Trump, an immigrant from Slovenia, "became even more vocal about her thoughts and opinions on the topic." Catherine Garcia

7:15 p.m. ET
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After actor Peter Fonda tweeted about her 12-year-old son, Barron, on Wednesday morning, first lady Melania Trump had her office contact the Secret Service.

In response to the administration's policy of taking children away from their parents at the border, Fonda tweeted, "WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER'S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES AND SEE IF MOTHER WILL STAND UP AGAINST THE GIANT ASSHOLE SHE IS MARRIED TO." Fonda later deleted the tweet, and "sincerely apologized" for tweeting "something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television."

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director told The Hill that the tweet was "sick and irresponsible." Catherine Garcia

6:45 p.m. ET
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Burger King has apologized for an ad that ran on VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, promising 3 million rubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers for any woman impregnated by a soccer player competing in the World Cup.

Burger King's Russian division is known for dreadful campaigns, The Guardian reports; in one advertisement for a buy one burger get one free deal, the company used the image of a 16-year-old rape victim. After pulling the World Cup ads, Burger King apologized on VK, calling the campaign "too offensive." Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m. ET

President Trump patted himself on the back for trash-talking Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) in front of House Republicans, but not everyone enjoyed the show.

Trump claimed that GOP leaders loved it when he joked about Sanford's recent election loss. "I want to congratulate Mark on a great race," Trump reportedly said in the meeting, calling Sanford a "nasty guy." Most accounts say that lawmakers were simply silent, and Fox News reports that some audience members booed the "low blow," but Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) made his disapproval publicly known.

Amash called it a "classless cheap shot," and set the record straight that no House members applauded, despite Trump's claims. Summer Meza

5:33 p.m. ET
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Image

Russia thinks the U.S. may trigger another space race.

But it won't be like the brainy battles of yesteryear. It'll be more like an intergalactic arms race that could be worse than the current nuclear one, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

President Trump directed the Pentagon to add a Space Force to the military Monday, declaring that this new branch of the military would preserve "American dominance in space." The first few goals include a mission to Mars and a system for space traffic management, Trump said.

But to the Russian Foreign Ministry, that sounds like the U.S. might deploy weapons over Earth, a spokeswoman told AP. That could spark consequences "no less harmful than the nuclear arms race," the spokeswoman said.

Russia and China did draft a treaty to preserve space as neutral territory, but the U.S. opted out. Regardless of a treaty, U.S. intelligence cautioned in February that the two countries are developing weapons that could be used to shoot down American satellites. Officials under past presidents have suggested defensive measures in space as well.

Looks like this star war could be heating up. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:34 p.m. ET

President Trump has signed an executive order reversing his administration's own policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. "We're going to have a lot of happy people," said Trump, who in the past week doubled-down on his false claims that there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The executive order is titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," despite the family separation policy not being a law; it was introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May. The executive order states: "It is ... the policy of this administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." The New York Times more critically described the order as allowing authorities to detain "families together indefinitely."

Trump's executive order has to contend with the 1997 Flores settlement, which prohibits the government from holding minors in immigration detention for more than 20 days, regardless of whether they are with a parent or not. The order appears to declare a challenge to the settlement: "The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions ... in a manner that would permit the [homeland security secretary], under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Read the full order here. Jeva Lange

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